Tuesday, February 06, 2007

GOP Senators Stalling Iraq Resolutions

The goopers won't be able to stall indefinitely. Reality has a way of catching up to everyone eventually, even Senate Republicans.

A long-awaited Senate showdown on the war in Iraq was shut down before it even started yesterday, when nearly all Republicans voted to stop the Senate from considering a resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional combat troops into battle.

A day of posturing, finger-pointing and backroom wrangling came to nothing when Democratic and Republican leaders could not reach agreement on which nonbinding resolutions would be debated and allowed to come to a vote. The Senate's 49 to 47 vote last night to proceed to debate on Bush's new war policy fell 11 votes short of the 60 needed to break the logjam. Just two Republicans, Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Susan Collins (Maine), voted with the Democrats to proceed with the debate. Both are considered among the most vulnerable senators standing for reelection in 2008. ...

(Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid) and (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) were expected to resume negotiations today after conferring with lawmakers. With the tremendous national interest and media buildup to this week's confrontation, it would be extraordinary if the two sides did not reach an agreement on ground rules. But regardless of the outcome of the talks, Congress is certain to be consumed with Iraq in the months ahead.

A huge budget bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year comes before the Senate tomorrow, and Reid promised war amendments to that debate. Bush has requested $245 billion in funding for the war, to cover this year and next year, and that legislation is certain to become a magnet for Iraq concerns. ...

At issue are four separate measures. The main resolution, worked out by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), would put the Senate on record as opposing the additional troop deployment while calling for a diplomatic initiative to settle the conflict. It would oppose a cutoff of funds for troops in the field of battle.

The Republican leadership's alternative, drafted by John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), would establish tough new benchmarks for the Iraqi government to achieve but would not oppose the planned deployment.

Two other versions appear at the heart of the impasse. The first, drafted by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), would staunchly back the White House and the president's decision to boost troop strength in Iraq. It recognizes the power of the president to deploy troops and the "responsibility" of Congress to fund them -- before stating that "Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of funds."

The other proposed resolution, hastily written by Democrats, would simply oppose Bush's plan and insist that all troops are properly protected with body armor and other material. ...

The Democratic leadership gave Republicans a choice: Allow all four versions to come to a vote, with a simple majority needed for passing any of them, or debate and vote on the Warner and McCain resolutions, with both needing 60 votes to pass.

McConnell wanted all four resolutions to meet a 60-vote threshold, for a simple reason: Both Democrats and Republicans think the only measure that could attract 60 votes is Gregg's, because Democrats would be concerned about the political ramifications of appearing to take action that might harm troops in battle.

"If Republicans cannot swallow the thin soup of the Warner resolution, how are they going to stomach a real debate on Iraq?" asked Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

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